His legs were pumping, his feet were peddling and, most of all, his heart was pounding. But nothing was going to prevent 59-year-old Sil Dan from reaching his goal: cycling roughly 50 miles for Owen’s Toy Box, a Western New York charity that brightens the lives of children with cancer.
Sil himself is a cancer survivor. A Senior Administrator in the Human Resources Department at Rich’s worldwide headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y., Sil also is a shining example of how company associates reach beyond their own homes and offices and devote their time and talents to bettering the communities in which they live and work.
Early the morning of June 29, 2012, Sil set out from The Hideaway Grille in his hometown of North Tonawanda, N.Y., on an ambitious bike trip he dubbed “Riding for Owen.” His route took Sil across the landmark Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls and into Canada, where he turned south and traveled along the scenic Niagara Parkway all the way to the Rich’s plant in Fort Erie, Ontario. He then crossed the international Peace Bridge into Buffalo, finishing his trek at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, the regional center for specialized pediatric and women’s health care – and the place where Owen’s Toy Box got its start.
Sil proved that, with drive, determination and passion, one person truly can make a difference. Through his bicycle journey, he single-handedly raised more than $6,000 for Owen’s Toy Box, which primarily provides toys, games and activity books to young inpatients with cancer, blood disorders and other medical conditions at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Sil personifies the thousands of Rich’s associates around the world who undertake important endeavors that enrich the local community. His dedication to the values of the company continues to inspire others and makes the entire Rich Products family very proud.
“I’m so thankful to my friends, family, community and co-workers for supporting this ride,” said Sil. “As always, the Rich’s family of associates provided outstanding support. Their donations made up nearly 60 percent of my total. Every time I reach out to my family at Rich’s, they’re willing to help.”
Sil played a considerable role in the founding of Owen’s Toy Box. A few years ago, during his own battle with colon-rectal cancer, Sil learned of a very special 3-year-old named Owen Pieber and the little boy’s courageous fight against medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer of the brain and spine. Following initial brain surgery, Owen’s condition over time improved to some extent, but only temporarily. New, multiple brain tumors were discovered not long after he turned 4. Extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments, along with a barrage of medications, also took their toll on his helpless body.
Despite his very young age and the physical ordeal he was facing, Owen proved to be an exceptional individual, touching innumerable lives and capturing hearts with his unforgettable smile and zest for life. During the umpteen occasions he was a patient at Women and Children’s Hospital, he exuded a certain enthusiasm and charm that enthralled everyone the lovable tyke came in contact with. He appeared not to be concerned with his own predicament, but instead spent ample time visiting other youthful patients in the Cancer Care Unit. Occasionally, he would sneak a few packets of gummy bears to the other kids, even though he could not eat them himself.
Observers rapidly sensed that Owen’s infectious personality helped ease the other children’s pain and made their days in the hospital somewhat brighter. The medical facility’s staff at one point presented this exceedingly sociable young lad from Akron, N.Y., its Child Champion of the Year award, for his spirit and courage under adversity.
Meanwhile, the heartrending story of Owen’s health issues reached beyond the hospital campus, to the point Owen became a focus of the community. Like many others, Sil Dan wanted to help.
When he met Owen, Sil felt an instant connection and the two quickly struck a close, personal friendship. Seeing how Owen cared so much about the other children in the hospital and if they had toys to play with, Sil and Frank Pieber, Owen’s father, created Owen’s Toy Box. To make hospital stays fun and less stressful – just the way Owen did – they soon were dispensing handheld games, toys and books for children to enjoy while confined to the hospital and to take home following their stay.
Cancer took Owen’s life in 2008. He did not live to see age 5. But his indomitable spirit, generosity and personality live on through Owen’s Toy Box, which continues to serve children with extended stays at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
Owen’s Toy Box puts 100 percent of all donations directly into its “toy chest.” It also is committed to delivering on a long wish list of additional toy-chest items for youngsters in the Inpatient Cancer Care Unit, as well as much-needed care packages for families upon admission. Funds alternately have been raised to purchase televisions for the hospital, iPads for teenagers to use while they’re checked in, meal vouchers for those who cannot afford to eat while their children are being treated in the medical center, toys for every child, and much more.
In recent years, Sil – a veteran high school basketball coach – has organized inner-city basketball camps, with proceeds going to Owen’s Toy Box. In 2012, his “Riding for Owen” cycling project was added to the fund-raising mission. “It’s not a race,” Sil said. “It’s just me on a bike, trying to make a difference.”
In addition to the support Sil’s ride received from individual company associates, Rich Products is a corporate sponsor of Owen’s Toy Box and continues to promote the organization’s efforts.
To learn more about Owen’s Toy Box and how you can help, visit www.owenstoybox.com.